Feb 9 was a banner day at Ave Maria University. At 6 pm, the 24-hour “Homerathon” concluded – an oral reading in Demetree Auditorium of every book of the Iliad by students, in groups ranging from one to fifteen per book. The last hour was read with quiet, deeply felt and powerful passion by Professor Lombardo from the University of Kansas, whose command of Greek idiom, and customs, and funerals was effortless -- and extraordinary. His new translation of Homer is translucent. I wish I had benefited from it in my schoolboy years. Afterwards, one felt an enormous pride in the Ave student body, who carried the reading through all night and all day long. Professor Lombard said of his experience that the Ave campus was one of the most extraordinary he had ever experienced – because of the quality, keen interest, and sense of purpose he experienced among the students. He corrected himself from “one of the most,” to “most,” and then to “unique.”
As far as I had experienced myself, he nailed it.
It was neat, too, that the Chairman of our Board of Trustees was a key mover behind the Homerathon. And that Travis Cartwright, Professor of Theater and Performance as well as of English Lit (specialist in Shakespeare) and the Classics Department coached the readers in advance rehearsals. I understand that attendance was often at about 20, sometimes 50, and by the last hour had reached 175 (I hand-counted them myself, to be certain).
The night concluded with a videotape of the New York City Metropolitan Opera performing Richard Wagner’s Das Rhineland before a live audience in Manhattan.
In between these two thrilling performances, I ducked in for a quick dinner at the Queen Mary’s Pub (perhaps my last martini before Lent, plus a Queen Mary Burger – thick, juicy, and medium-rare). At the end of the evening, driving home on my battery-run golf cart, with the profound myths and metaphysical soliloquies of Wagner still terrifying my imagination – I hummed quietly through the warm, rain-pregnant evening air under the huge Florida sky.
Out of sheer generosity of spirit, I said a heartfelt prayer for my friends and family up north, who were just then enduring the last of 30 inches of snow drifting quietly down. The terrifying Wagner prompts me to confess that that I also felt a wee touch of what the classics called “morbid delectation.”